The Definitive Guide : Ports & Marinas of the French Riviera
Mandelieu La Napoule – Port La Napoule
Mandelieu La Napoule has a great interest in maritime life with beaches and 7 ports on the coastline and banks of the Siagne River combining to present almost 4,500 berths.
The two main ports we focus on are Port La Napoule (917 berths) and Port de la Rague (560 berths).
The main seaport of Port La Napoule, and neighbouring Port de la Rague are both labelled as ‘Ports Propres’ (Clean Ports), a label given in the Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions to ports that actively engage in the management of waste and effluents generated by marinas, and preservation of the maritime environment.
Facilities at Port La Napoule include fuel, shops, nautical services, and marina restaurants. Water sports operators are prominent as Mandelieu La Napoule is a France Station Nautique Resort meaning it has diverse activities for those interested in the sea and water sports recreation (diving, sailing, fishing, jet skis etc). The coastal train service stops at Mandelieu, and bus Numbers 20 and 22 link to Cannes, just 7 kilometres away. Helicopter transfers operate between Nice and the Cannes-Mandelieu airport.
The town’s beaches have received the Pavillion Blue (Blue Flag) label, an important tourism indicator based on 4 criteria around environmental quality. All of the beaches have their water quality tested daily before they are opened to the public. The main sandy beaches are plage du Sable d’Or, and plage Robinson – both are close to shops and the golf courses. Closer to Port de la Rague, plage de la Raguette and plage de la Rague are particularly good for families because the sandy beaches are protected by breakwaters.
Our recommended restaurants include 2 Michelin star L’Oasis, La Palmea overlooking the port and Restaurant Cote Place a few minutes’ walk from Château de La Napoule. The seasonal tea rooms at the Château itself are also a lovely place to enjoy a glass of wine in warmer months.
For shopping, you will find the main shopping complex is at the Centre Commerical Géant on avenue de Fréjus, with 2 concentrated industrial zones of larger stores retailing everything from frozen foods to home appliances and children’s clothing located at Zone de la Canardière and Les Tourrades near the Cannes Mandelieu Airport.
Cannes – Port de Cannes / Vieux Port
Cannes is one of our busiest charter destinations with a year round calendar of trade fairs, shows and festivals hosted at the Palais des Festivals et Congrès including Cannes Film Festival, MIPIM, MIPTV, MIDEM, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, MIPCOM, Tax Free, MAPIC and ILTM!
Naturally, we love the buzz around town when the Cannes Yachting Festival is in full swing as well as other exciting events such as the NRJ Music Awards and Cannes Shopping Festival, held over 4 days with many participating retailers and boutiques, it is a perfect opportunity for retail therapy in Cannes.
There are two main ports in Cannes that we focus on – the Vieux Port that offers 650 berths (60 designated for superyachts) and Port Pierre Canto that offers 598 berths. There are a couple of smaller ports closer to Palm Beach aimed at smaller leisure vessels.
The Vieux Port is our premier port for Cannes and occupies a prime spot at the foot of the historical Le Suquet quarter. Due to its location right beside the Palais des Festivals et Congrès, it is a superb base for yacht charters and functions during congress events, of which we have many years’ experience arranging for our valued clients.
The port has excellent proximity to all that Cannes offers including a Tourism Office at the base of the Palais building, excellent shopping and diverse dining establishments. Pay car parking is found next to the port at the underground complex Parking Pantiero and de la zone Portuaire on Quai Saint Pierre.
Nearby transportation services include a Gare Routière (bus interchange) and taxi stand facing the port at the bottom of Le Suquet near Hôtel de Ville, and another taxi stand on rue Maréchal Joffre. The Cannes train station is less than 10 minutes’ walk from the port.
Facilities at the Vieux Port include fuel, refuse and waste disposal, mail service, showers and laundry facilities. The Capitainerie (Harbourmasters) office is situated at the north-east corner of the port where there is a Wifi zone at Jetée Albert Edouard and Ponton E Pantiero. You can download an Android app for ease of information about the Vieux Port here.
The main beaches near the Vieux Port are found along the Croisette with a mixture of private and public beaches, and plage du Midi with water sports operators, beach volleyball courts and snack kiosks.
For general shopping, Cannes tempts visitors with everything from luxury clothing to unique homewares, tech gadgets and gastronomic gifts. For the best shopping experience, head to rue d’Antibes, the Croisette, rue Meynadier, Galerie Gray d’Albion and Galeries Lafayette. Don’t forget to take advantage of the French shopping refund where you can claim a tax rebate on your shopping if you spend more than €175 in one store and you’re a non-EU resident.
Marché Forville is unmissable for regional foodstuffs including fresh tapenades, artisan olive oils, cheese and market produce, and if you’re looking for a bite to eat head to Le Suquet to one of the many fabulous restaurants or book a meal at Le Bistro Gourmand or Le Park 45 – our top tip is to search first on La Fourchette as there are often dining deals for traditional bistros as well as the Michelin restaurants.
Golfe Juan – Port Camille Rayon
Golfe Juan is famous as the landing place of Napoléon I who disembarked on the beach there in 1815; if you are in the area there is an annual historical re-enactment of the day in March each year and there is a commemorative plaque at the Vieux Port as the town is significant as the mainland starting point of the Route Napoléon.
Aside from historical events, Golfe Juan is home to 2 ports – Port de Golfe Juan known as Vieux Port and Port Camille Rayon, the main port to the east offering 844 berths.
Facilities at Port Camille Rayon include fuel and tank cleaning, showers, a shipyard and many businesses for nautical services including ship chandlers and dive schools. There is security/video surveillance of the port, and Wifi is active for all 25 metre+ berths. Nearby is the Théâtre de la Mer, an outdoor arena sometimes used for concerts or fairs.
The town’s main sandy beach has received the Pavillion Bleu (Blue Flag) label so it is tested daily for water quality before opening, though the strip of beaches between Golfe Juan and Juan les Pins are also excellent and close to parasailing, wakeboard and jet ski rental.
Our suggested restaurants to dine at nearby include Tetou for seafood, and La Cigale on the main seafront road where we recommend reserving a terrace table beside the port; the aubergine farcis (stuffed aubergines) are very popular here!
Port Camille Rayon doesn’t have extensive shopping facilities onsite, though most things you’ll need are found just 5 minutes’ walk away at the town centre including the train station, post office, taxi stands, supermarkets, bars and small commerce such as bakeries and newsagents.
Antibes – Port Vauban
Antibes, a popular destination with interesting attractions and great restaurants is home to Port Vauban, the largest marina in the Mediterranean and site of the Antibes Celebrates Yachting show.
The Port, overlooked by the fortifications of Fort Carré offers a staggering 1700 berths with 19 berths on the I.Y.C.A quay catering to yachts up to a maximum of 165 metres. It is also home to the Antibes Lifeboat that provides sea rescue in the Alpes-Maritimes region.
A hugely yacht-centric town, the port is well set up for facilities include fuel and tank cleaning, and shipyard. Car parking is onsite at the port, additionally a large underground pay parking facility faces the port. Services such as ship chandlers, provisioning, dry cleaning, florists, post office, supermarkets, newsagents, rental car offices and banks are within 5-10 minutes’ walk from the port, as well as the Antibes train station and a bus interchange on avenue Vautrin. The main Tourism Office is located 100 metres from the train station on avenue Robert Soleau.
The port has an adjacent beach beside the rampart walls – plage de Gravette – which is very busy in summer due to its locality to the town, though the most popular sandy beaches are found at plage de Ponteil (there are snack kiosks in summer and water sports rentals here for jet skis, paddleboards etc) and plage Garoupe on the Cap d’Antibes. Nearby Juan les Pins has a good mixture of public and private sandy beaches.
Popular things to do in Antibes are walking along the rampart walls for some great sea views, browsing for goods at the Marché Provençal, visiting the Picasso Museum or shopping in Vieil Antibes (Old Town) on rue Thuret, rue Sade, rue de la République or rue James Close. There are also many great walks that highlight Antibes’ historical features or links to artists.
For dining, try Café Milano if you fancy a relaxed meal with warm hospitality or Michaelangelo for a step up in cuisine. If you love people watching over a coffee or glass of wine, Café Pimms on rue République or Le Vieil Antibes by the fountain on rue Georges Clémenceau have excellent locations for un petit pause to watch the world go by.
Villeneuve Loubet – Marina Baie des Anges
The first thing you notice about approaching Marina Baie des Anges is the towering height and eye-catching design of the surrounding pyramid-shaped apartment buildings. They were built in the 1960’s to fill a gap in holiday accommodation and at the time were considered very avant-garde. Today, these landmark buildings are architecturally listed and play a role in the services and shops that fringe the Marina Baie des Anges.
The Marina Baie des Anges is ideally situated between Antibes and Nice, and has 570 berths. There is immediate car parking in small designated areas around the port, showers, toilets, paying Wifi and a minor shipyard for yacht repairs. The surrounding marina apartment complex hosts restaurants, bars, a newsagent, small supermarket, bike and scooter hire, a seasonal swimming pool ‘Le Lagon’ and a Thalassoleil Spa.
The port is conveniently located just 10 minutes’ walk from the Villeneuve Loubet train station, 5 minutes’ drive to the Cagnes-sur-Mer Hippodrome horse racing track and 15 minutes’ drive to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (off season).
For shopping, you’ll find bigger commerce including a large Géant Casino supermarket, a bio-organic foodstuffs shop, home furnishing stores and clothing retailers on the Route Nationale (RN7) and Route du Bord de Mer.
The beaches either side of the Marina in the direction of Antibes and Cagnes-sur-Mer are pebble beaches (except Plage des Bouches du Loup closest to Cagnes-sur-Mer is pebbles off-season; covered in sand in summer). Villeneuve Loubet beach car parking is payable only in the peak months of July and August.
The beaches cater to the summer crowd with sports facilities including a beach volleyball court, seasonal beach clubs with umbrella hire and water sports hire including jet skis and kayaks. A pleasant public boardwalk reaches all the way along the beach from Marina Baie des Anges to Cagnes-sur-Mer and designated bicycle lanes follow the main coastal road to both Antibes and Cagnes-sur-Mer.
It’s worth noting that Villeneuve Loubet village itself is situated inland on the banks of the River Loup. Attractions at and near the village include forest walks, various family adventure parks (Canyon Forest, Pitchoun Forest, Le Village des Fous and Le Bois des Lutins), tours of the fortress, Musée Escoffier de l’Art Culinaire with exhibitions dedicated to French cook Auguste Escoffier, and Musée d’Histoire & Art with collections of French Army memorabilia.
Nice – Port Lympia
Nice, the fifth largest city in France is a fantastic yacht charter destination with a buzzing Old Town area (Vieux Nice), splendid seafront promenade, diverse restaurants, a mild climate, lovely parks and a plethora of superb artistic and cultural attractions including Musée Matisse, Opéra de Nice, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Musée Marc Chagall and MAMAC.
Host to world class events such as Nice Carnival, Nice Jazz Festival and the upcoming UEFA Euro 2016, the city is well serviced for transport with the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport less than 20 minutes from the central city, a wide bus network and a major rail hub at Nice-Ville train station.
Nice Port (Port Lympia) also has its own free festival held each year in September – Lou Festin dou Pouort or simply known as Fête du Port. The port area is pedestrianized and becomes a party zone with music, dance, fireworks and activities for spectators on the land and water. Don’t miss it if you are in the area but be warned, the party continues till late!
The port itself has 2 Capitaineries that service 500 berths, with port facilities including fuel bunkering, cranes for repairs and ample car parking at Quai de la Douane, Quai des 2 Emmanuel, Place Guynemer and Quai Amiral Infernet. There are toilet facilities and Customs onsite as the port also functions as a major Mediterranean cruise stopover and a departure point for car ferries to Corsica.
Surrounding the port are restaurants and bars; the best shopping is found towards Vieux Nice and Place Garibaldi. Nearby attractions include the Promenade des Anglais pebble beach and seafront pathway (15 minutes walk), Musée Terra Amata, Colline du Château (Castle Hill) and Mont Boron which is superb for walking trails that offer a panoramic view back over Nice port and city.
Nice Port has information apps available in French language on both the iTunes Store and GooglePlay, search for ‘Port de Nice’.
Beaulieu – Port de Beaulieu
Situated between Nice and Monaco, Beaulieu-sur-Mer or simply Beaulieu is fortunate enough to be blessed with a mild climate that allows year round visitors – the town’s name means ‘beautiful place’ in French so that is a good indicator! The area is particularly well known for its stunning parks, palm trees and Belle Époque buildings.
Port de Beaulieu is the main marina with 723 berths under 24/7 surveillance and is situated under 10 minutes’ walk from the Beaulieu-sur-Mer train station, supermarkets, banks, post office, rental car providers and restaurants. The port lies on the routing for a regular bus service (Number 100) that travels between Menton and Nice. There is also a smaller port, Beaulieu Fourmis, dedicated to smaller sailing vessels.
Port facilities include toilets, mail holding service, fuel and tank cleaning, free Wifi, ship chandlers, bars, shops and a shipyard. There are numerous restaurants at the port – we recommend Café del Mar for fish dishes, or wander a short distance to L’Escentiel on boulevard du Maréchal L’eclerc for good bistro food. Port car parking is on Quai E Whitechurch or there are public spaces at the western end of Plage Petite Afrique or at Place de la Batterie on boulevard du Maréchal L’eclerc.
Beaulieu has 2 lovely sandy beaches with lots of water sports rentals such as jet ski hire, paddleboard, wind surf hire etc. Plage des Fourmis is on the western side of Beaulieu and fringed by palm trees, the water is reasonably shallow so its great for families. Plage Petite Afrique is very popular in warmer months and mostly public beach however you can also hire private cabanas and sunbeds from the Ibiza-styled Zelo’s Beach next to the port.
Don’t miss visiting Beaulieu’s top attraction, the impressive Villa Kérylos that is a fabulous recreation of a Greek mansion complete with sunken marble bath, mosaics and statuary and take your camera if you go for a walk along the seaside pathway Promenade Maurice Rouvier as the views across the Baie des Fourmis with the mountains behind are stunning.
Cap d’Ail – Port de Cap d’Ail
The Port of Cap d’Ail falls under the Ports d’Azur designation for French Riviera ports committed to a Clean Port ethos. It has 253 berths (10 for yachts above 30 metres with a maximum length of 60 metres) that present a great option for yacht charter guests that want to be near to Stade Louis II or Monaco attractions but berth in a quieter marina. The port is not as large or busy as its Monaco neighbours but the depth in the port allows room for some big yachts on Quai Nord and Quai du Large.
The port has 24/7 security monitoring, car parking, fuel bunkering, mail holding service, toilets, ship chandlers, 2 hotels, restaurants (our pick is La Cambuse for a sunset drink by the waterside but be forewarned they don’t accept credit cards), and shipyard. Dive schools and jet ski hire are available in season, and the Heliport at Fontvieille is within close proximity.
Plage Marquet is right near the port and you’ll find catamarans and kayaks available for hire in summer. We recommend following the coastal walkway to Plage Mala at the western end of Cap d’Ail as the setting is something special.
Monaco – Port de Fontvieille
Located at the foot of Le Rocher (The Rock), the Port of Fontvieille was built in the 1970s on reclaimed land and is one of the most sheltered marinas on the French Riviera with protection from westerly and southerly swells provided by a large sea wall, and the Rock sheltering the port from easterly winds.
The port is the smaller of the 2 Monaco ports and accommodates 275 berths with facilities offering toilets, mail holding service, banks, boutiques, and marina restaurants. A fueling service and shipyard/ship chandlery services are found at Port Hercules. Stade Louis II and the Monaco Heliport are close by to Fontvieille port.
Fontvieille port has a more relaxed vibe compared to its sister port on the other side of the Rock and locals and visitors alike can be found enjoying the portside cafeterias and restaurants along Quai Jean-Charles Rey.
For a casual drink, the Ship & Castle is an English pub that serves a range of beers and whiskeys to quench any visitors thirst. Our recommended restaurants include Graziella with welcoming hospitality and excellent Italian cuisine, or Amici Miei which is a family-run restaurant and serves pasta as it should be and a ‘catch of the day’ any fisherman would be proud of. Fontvieille certainly brings a taste of Italy to Monaco! Ensure you book a table outside so you can make the most of the views of the harbour and across to the Palais and Monaco Cathedral; it is particularly pretty at night when they are illuminated and the lights shine on the cliff side and water.
For shopping, The Centre Commerical Fontvielle is the main shopping centre with a range of retail shops offering clothing, music and electronics as well as restaurants and a large supermarket.
Things to do in or near Fontvieille include strolling through the Fontvieille Park and Princess Grace Rose Gardens, watching sport (namely football) at Stade Louis II, or admiring the magnificent vehicles displayed at the Monaco Top Cars Collection. Fontvielle Port is also nearby all of the attractions on the Rock including the Palais Princier and Monaco Oceanarium.
Monaco – Port Hercule
Monaco is a busy charter destination with an enticing mix of historical attractions, luxury living and major annual events filling up our charter calendar such as Monte-Carlo International Circus Festival, Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Monaco F1 Grand Prix, Historique Grand Prix, Festival de Télevision de Monte-Carlo, Monte-Carlo Summer Sporting Festival, and Monaco Yacht Show.
Port Hercule is the main port of the Principality of Monaco and it’s a fantastic place to drop anchor as its right at the heart of Monaco.
The port offers 700 berths of which 110 can accommodate yachts 24 metres+ and Bespoke Yacht Charter is happy to assist with charter bookings year round including during event periods. F1 Grand Prix is traditionally the busiest time – watching the action from a superyacht berthed next to the race circuit is a bucket list experience for many!
Facilities at Port Hercule include fuel, mail holding service, television connection for some berths to a local station, maritime services, shipyard and plenty of harbourside bars and restaurants along Quai Antoine 1er, boulevard Albert 1er, Quai Albert 1er and avenue President J. F Kennedy.
Close to the port, La Rascasse is a good stop off for a drink and if you stay long enough it’s open late also. For dining, we recommend trying the delicious fish soup or lamb shanks at Quai des Artistes, stopping into Address Restaurant in La Condamine for excellent pasta or for a healthy option including gluten-free and vegetarian dishes try L’Hirondelle at the Thermes Marins.
The port has Customs processing as it is a stopover for major cruise ships with a semi-floating sea wall enabling docking of ships up to 300 metres.
Due to its locality and the fact Monaco is a city-state, most services and facilities for visitors to the port are close by. Car parking can be sparse in summer, so check local parking details first – the car parks nearest to the port are La Digue, Pecheurs, Quai Antoine 1er, Condamine, Place d’Armes and Ostende; all public car parks offer free parking for less than one hours’ use, more details can be found here: www.monaco-parkings.mc/carpark
A Casino supermarket is adjacent to the port on boulevard Albert 1er (there is underground car parking at the rear of the supermarket), and the Condamine Market is easily reached within 5-10 minutes’ walk. The Monaco train station, Casino de Monte-Carlo, Grimaldi Forum, Thermes Marins Spa and Wellness complex and top luxury hotels such as Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo, Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo and the Fairmont Monte-Carlo are within 10 minutes’ reach from the port.
Larvotto Beach, or plage du Larvotto, is Monaco’s public beach and is best described as a mix of sand/fine shingle. The beach is well catered for facilities-wise with restaurants, ice cream kiosks, water sports hire, and a toddler playground. There are jellyfish nets in summer, and lifeguard monitoring. While it is considered a public beach, you can also hire umbrellas and sunbeds. Le Méridien Beach Plaza is the only hotel in Monte-Carlo with its own private beach access which is available to hotel guests only.
Monaco is a shopper’s heaven and most luxury brands have established themselves in the Principality. For shopping, our recommendations include:
- Place du Casino, Avenue Monte-Carlo, Avenue des Beaux Arts, Allées Lumières (Luxury designers, luxury jewelllery, art, antiques)
- Métropole Shopping Centre (80 shops retailing fashion, accessories, gifts, gadgets, food products, cosmetics. There are also restaurants onsite).
- Boulevard des Moulins, the Boulevard d’Italie or along Avenue Princess Grace (Luxury fashion, interior design, bars, restaurants)
- La Condamine especially Rue Grimaldi, Rue Millo and Rue Terrazzani (specialist shops)
- Monaco-Ville / Le Rocher (souvenirs)
For things to see and do whilst in Monaco, there are a number of excellent attractions and activities around the Principality which are superbly demonstrated in Visit Monaco’s 360 degree virtual tours www.visitmonaco.com/monaco360/vr.html
Menton – Port de Menton Garavan
Menton is full of art, natural beauty and history with Italian architectural influences, Belle Époque hotels, pretty gardens and interesting festivals making it a lovely town to visit.
As the warmest town in France with over 300 sunshine days per year, the micro climate is ideal for the growing of exceptional plants and the famous lemons of Menton – both are celebrated yearly during the Mois des Jardins (Gardens Month) in June, the Journées Méditerranéennes des Jardins (Mediterranean Garden Days) held in September and the unique Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) with incredible citrus-themed sculptures and parades.
The town is home to 2 ports – Port Menton is the municipal port situated closest to the town, and the Port of Menton Garavan which marks the eastern edge of the French Riviera, just 700 metres from the Italian border.
Menton Garavan accommodates 770 berths for yachts up to 40 metres and available port facilities include fuel, showers and toilets, free Wifi, water sports activities and shipyard/ship chandlery services. There are a few shops and restaurants in the vicinity – Le Galion facing the port or Le Bruit Qui Court on the other side of the harbour are both good dining options if you like seafood.
For transport, Menton Garavan train station is a short distance from the port and there is an Express bus service from Nice Côte d’Azur Airport to Menton via Monaco (Bus Number 110) as well as a daily bus service from Menton to Nice, stopping at Carnoles, Roquebrune and Monaco (Bus Number 100).
Things to see and do in Menton include sunbathing on the main beach Plage de Sablettes, wandering up to the baroque Basilica of St-Michel, visiting the Musée Jean Cocteau or strolling through some of the beautiful gardens such as Jardin Botanique Val Rahmeh or Jardin Serre de la Madone.
This article was written by Rebecca Whitlocke, who with over 10 years travel industry experience loves to share ‘must-do’ destination tips and hidden spots to discover in France and beyond.
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